Perfect in telling lies

There was once a very prosperous man who wanted his son to be well educated in every way. He approached a great scholar and said, “In three years’ time I want my son to be a first-class scholar. He may not become as great as you are. You are the greatest scholar, and you have a lifetime of study behind you. But I do want my son to be an excellent scholar. Please teach him for three years whatever subjects you feel are appropriate. I will give you a salary on a monthly basis.” And he promised a very high salary.

The son began going to the scholar every day and spending hours with him learning all kinds of things. For three years he studied with the greatest scholar. Sometimes when he came home, he would use bombastic words that his family had never heard before, and he would talk about philosophy, religion, science, literature, poetry and mathematics. The father was so pleased with his son’s progress and the mother was very proud to have such a learned son.

At the end of three years, the rich man said to the scholar, “Has my son learnt everything that he is supposed to learn?”

The scholar said, “Yes, he has learnt a great deal. He is an excellent student. I am very, very pleased with him and very proud of him.”

The father said, “I am also very proud of my son. He has become everything that I hoped he would become. To me, he is perfect. Do you see anything in his life or in his nature that is imperfect?”

The scholar said, “In all sincerity, I wish to say that I have never seen anybody like him. Thousands of students have passed through my hands, but I have never imagined that such a good, smart, intelligent student would come into my life.”

The father was overjoyed at these words of praise, and he gave the scholar a large sum of money. The scholar was very pleased to receive so much money. Then the father repeated his question. He asked, “Tell me frankly, is my son perfect?”

The scholar replied, “I cannot say he is one hundred per cent perfect. No human being is perfect. Perhaps he has one or two small faults. We are all human beings after all. In each person you will find one or two faults, but in comparison to others, he is infinitely better than all of us.”

The father was very, very pleased. He said, “All right. Let me ask him some questions.” The father said to the son, “My son, have you ever neglected your studies?”

The son said, “No, Father, no.”

“Have you ever smoked?”

“No, I have never smoked.”

“Did you ever mix with any girl?”

“No. I devoted all my time to my studies.”

“Did you ever go out to watch a violent movie, or did you go to a night club?”

“No, no, no!”

Then the rich man said to the scholar, “My son does not have a girlfriend. He does not smoke. He has not neglected his studies. He has not gone to any night club. My son is perfect, perfect. What do you think? Is he not perfect in every way?”

“Yes, your son is perfect,” said the scholar, looking down at the ground.

“Then tell me once and for all if you have anything to say against him,” insisted the rich man.

“I have nothing to say against him,” said the scholar abruptly.

The rich man was eager to hear more praise of his son. He went on, “Can you not pass any opinion? Do you not agree with me that my son is absolutely perfect?”

Suddenly the scholar looked up and said in a different kind of voice, “Yes, your son is absolutely perfect. But I have to add something. He is absolutely perfect in telling lies! Since he has come to me, he has never studied. I begged him and begged him to study. And all the things that you asked — whether he has gone to bars or smoked or watched movies — it is my painful task to inform you that his answers are all lies. I tried in so many ways to persuade him to study, but he never studied. Now you can see for yourself that he is really perfect. Perfect in what? Perfect in telling lies. I am glad that you are taking your son back because these last three years have been a real torture for me. What could I do? I could not say anything. I was afraid that you would scold me and insult me for not teaching him properly. Desperately I tried to teach him, but he was determined not to learn anything.”

The father was bewildered. He asked, “Then how is it that my son used to come home from time to time and speak about religion, spirituality, science and other subjects?”

The scholar said, “Please, please forgive me. You are a rich man, but you are not at all a wise man. You have not studied these subjects. You know about business matters, but when it comes to higher learning, you are an idiot. Whatever your son said was erroneous. There was nothing correct in it. He was just saying things at random. If you had asked people who know philosophy or religion or science to verify what he was saying, they would have laughed and laughed. But you are not learned, so it was easy for him to fool you by using bombastic words and facts that he had invented on the spur of the moment. Since you want to see perfection in your son, then I can only say that he is really perfect in telling lies at every moment.”